I am pregnant. With a book.
Price of Passage—A Tale of Immigration and Liberation is due August 23. It is expected to weigh eleven ounces and be seven and fifteen-sixteenths inches long.
Congratulations are in order. But pity me carrying it through the hot months!
It’s a funny thing, Dear Reader: One stroke of a pen and you go from writer to bookseller.
One hundred percent. Instantly.
On February 17, I signed a contract with DX Varos Publishing for the publication of my historical novel The Maelstrom.Things started happening.
- The publisher and I agreed to change the title from The Maelstrom to Price of Passage.
- We added a subtitle: A Tale of Immigration and Liberation.
- The publisher sent me an advance check to seal the deal.
- We settled on a cover design, which was swiftly executed by the publisher.
- The publisher revealed the cover and announced the publication with an exciting blurb teasing the contents of the book.
- I upgraded my website, www.LarryFSommers.com.
- I acquired Mailerlite software, learned its rudiments, and launched an occasional newsletter for my loyal fans, The Haphazard Times (currently undergoing refinement).
- I attended the Chicago Writers Association’s annual conference, where I received much kudos and encouragement from fellow authors.
- I applied for a Wisconsin Seller’s Permit.
- I sent for a Square Reader so I can process people’s credit card and Paypal purchases at author events such as signings, readings, and book clubs.
- I started “going to school” on my friend Greg Renz, successful author of Beneath the Flames. I’m studying what he does to beat the drum for his book, and how he does it.
- Oh, yes. I am ordering custom bookmarks to give out with copies of the book.
Take a Breath, Buster
It’s been just over a month. Price of Passage will not arrive until August 23.
I stand presently under a Niagara of marketing, sales, and bookkeeping concerns. I don’t understand half of what I’m doing but plunge ahead anyway. Learn by doing, the saying goes.
Meanwhile, I have a second completed novel a mere whisker away from being ready to start sending queries to publishers. It only needs two or three good days of last-minute polishing, plus the drafting of a good synopsis and query letter. But all that will have to wait.
I have a great idea for a short story to develop for the literary journals. Quite a bit of work. And it will have to wait.
There is the beginning of a personal memoir. It needs to keep going. But it will have to wait.
Blacksmiths of yore had a saying to cover this situation: “Strike while the iron is hot.”
Shakespeare, more verbose yet pithy, said
There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat…
Rodeo cowboys are more terse: “Let ’er buck!”
No matter how you say it, now is the time to sell, even though I’d rather write. We can pick up the pieces afterward.
The Book Trade
Why is it this way?
Maybe you think when an author finishes a book, he sends it to his publisher—one of the Big Five—who assigns the manuscript to a top-flight editor, a Maxwell Perkins type in a three-piece suit, then takes out a full-page ad in the New York Times and calls the appropriate committees (Pulitzer, Nobel, etc.). Oh, yes, a book tour of the major cities might be needed, with the author accompanied by two or three publicists and cossetted in luxury suites in four-star hotels. And then the dollars roll in, followed by movie contracts, more dollars, etc.
Well, Gentle Reader, let me assure you:
That is NOT, unless you are Stephen King, How It Works.
Publishers do not sell books. Mostly, they can’t even spare a publicist.
But publicists do not sell books, anyway.
Editors, of course, would not be caught dead selling books.
Even bookstores do not really sell books. They merely conduct the transaction. People come into the store looking to buy books. All the store needs to do is have some on hand.
Amazon? Even more so.
So, you ask, who does sell books?
Authors sell books.
So next time you see me, Dear Reader, I will have my foot wedged firmly in your door. And a great book in my hand. You should definitely own a copy or two. And all the members of your extended family should, too. It will make a very thoughtful Christmas or Hanukah gift.
Wish me luck.
Larry F. Sommers, Your New Favorite Writer
Author of Price of Passage—A Tale of Immigration and Liberation.
Price of Passage
Norwegian Farmers and Fugitive Slaves in Pre-Civil War Illinois
(History is not what you thought!)